REMEMBERING MOTHER ANGELICA
By now, everyone reading this column knows that EWTN’s foundress, known worldwide as Mother Angelica, died yesterday, Easter Sunday at the age of 92. If you are going to meet your Maker, Easter Sunday seems like a divinely appointed day to do so!
How fitting she would die at the end of the Easter Triduum, a three-day period that includes the Way of the Cross. Mother had her own years of Calvary, her physical sufferings, the many trials with starting the network, criticism when the fledgling EWTN global Catholic television and radio began to take root, and legions of doubters, at least in the early years.
But she was single-minded, if she was nothing else! She wanted to teach the Word of God and a fairly new medium (at the time) like television seemed the perfect fit to her in her early years as a nun, a cloistered nun at that. Overcoming the most unlikely and incredible odds, she build the media family we all know today as EWTN global Catholic television.
Most of you know that one of my very close friends was Cardinal Francis George, the late archbishop of Chicago. He often graced my home with his presence for dinner. One of the first times was in October 2005 when he was vice-president of the USCCB and he and the other officers came for dinner when they were in Rome for meetings with Pope Benedict.
I had only been with EWTN about two months at that time, and I was telling him of my transition from working for the Vatican at the Vatican Information Service to being EWTN’s Rome Bureau Chief. He looked at me and said, now there was woman to take note of, and he highlighted how she single-handedly, and with singleness of purpose, achieved what the USCCB could not.
Many great and wonderful things have been said and written about Mother over the years and especially in the last 24 hours, since her passing. Tributes have been paid by people who knew her for years, who worked with her side by side, who prayed with her, who cared for her at bedside these last years of suffering and inability to speak, who sat own with her for hours upon end to write an authoritative biography.
I do not have their knowledge, nor do I have their years of closeness with this world famous nun, Sister to so many, Mother to countless others. I will leave the more profound, touching tributes to them.
However brief, I was blessed to meet Mother Angelica on several occasions. The most important for me was on August 22, 2005. I had just spent several days at EWTN and had signed the contract to be the network’s Rome Bureau Chief! Doug Keck asked me if I had ever been to the shrine on previous visits to the network, I said I hadn’t so he drove me to Hanceville.
As we descended into the lower chapel and crypt area, we spotted her seated in a wheel chair, with two Sisters by her side, all three praying at the tomb of her mother. Doug and I waited until she was getting ready to leave and he then introduced me by name and by title, EWTN Rome Bureau Chief.
Although she could not talk, Mother’s eyes lit up and I saw a smile on her face. You see, her lifelong dream had been to establish this global Catholic network – but to set it up in Rome!
EWTN was to be planted in Irondale, Alabama, not Rome, but it flourished in that wonderful soil. It was only 24 years later that her Rome dream became a reality – an office, if not the whole network! The foundation date is August 15, 1981 – we met 21 years and one week after that!
I knelt so we could look each other in the eyes. She took my hands in hers and with one hand, she blessed me – my eyes, ears, mouth and my hands. It was very moving for me and I have always kept that image in my mind as I represent the network, be it in radio, TV or in writing in my columns. She was telling me that the Lord’s word, His Truth, should be heard by me, spoken by me and then transmitted to others.
Truth was the key word for Mother and is the key word for me, every waking moment.
People are asking: what will Mother Angelica’s legacy be? There will be many answers to that question. There will be rich, profound, meaningful commentaries, varied and yet valid, for sure.
People will look back at Mother’s ability to both read and reach people, her humor and humanity, her unwavering adherence to the truth, to the Church’s Magisterium when it would have been politically correct to tell people what they want to hear, not what they must hear, her single-mindedness, even her suffering. This – and SO much more, adds up to greatness.
For me, We are Mother Angelica’s legacy – the EWTN employees, the global family of listeners and viewers, the Catholics and converts, no matter where they are or what language they speak.
She achieved a great dream that is now on five continents in several languages, and we will keep that dream – that reality – alive!
From Rome, with love…..
TRIBUTES TO AND MEMORIES OF MOTHER ANGELICA
Scores of tributes have poured to the network and appeared in emails and social media but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Here are just two. After these tributes are some wonderful links to her life, her sayings, etc. The first one from a 1984 60 Minutes show about Mother – riveting!
The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia: “Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve. She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. Mother Angelica inspired other gifted people to join her in the work without compromising her own leadership and vision. I admired her very much, not just as a talented leader and communicator, but as a friend and great woman religious of generosity, intellect and Catholic faith.”
The Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama: “Mother Angelica brought the truth and the love and the life of the Gospel of Jesus to so many people, not only to our Catholic household of faith, but to many thousands of people who are not Catholic, in that beautiful way she had of touching lives, bringing so many people into the Catholic Faith.”
60 MINUTES and Mother Angelica: http://aleteia.org/blogs/deacon-greg-kandra/classic-morley-safer-interviews-mother-angelica-on-60-minutes-in-1984/
In case you did not know Mother Angelica: http://aleteia.org/2016/03/27/mother-angelica-dead-tributes-from-catholics-in-media-pour-in/
Her now-I’ve-got-you-hooked-quotes: https://churchpop.com/2015/07/28/18-mother-angelica-quotes-that-hit-it-right-on-the-nose/
Some of the little known facts about Mother Angelica: https://churchpop.com/2016/03/27/things-you-didnt-know-about-the-life-of-mother-angelica/